Orlando prosecutor Aramis Ayala filed a federal lawsuit yesterday against Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who reassigned 23 of her capital cases to another prosecutor who says he will seek the death penalty — something she’s not willing to do, the Orlando Sentinel reports. “The governor did not take this drastic step because of any misconduct on Ayala’s part, but simply because he disagreed with her reasoned prosecutorial determination not to seek the death penalty under current circumstances,” the suit says. Her attorney, Roy Austin, says she wants “the ability to seek justice for her community in the best way that she knows based on facts and data.”
Scott said the allegations are without merit. “I think every citizen deserves a state attorney who is going to prosecute the cases,” he said, adding that he will “make sure that we always think about the victim.” Ayala took office in January after beating incumbent State Attorney Jeff Ashton. She did not talk about her stance on capital punishment on the campaign trail. On March 16, she said she would not seek death in the high-profile case of Markeith Loyd, who is accused of murdering his pregnant ex-girlfriend and an Orlando police officer — or against anyone else. Later that day, Scott signed a order stripping her of the Loyd murder case. University of Florida law Prof. Darren Hutchinson says Ayala argues that removing her from capital cases dilutes the power of voters who elected her and deprives her of her constitutional right to due process.